Outerbridge Reach Outerbridge Reach
by Robert Stone

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Outerbridge Reach

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A graduate of Annapolis (Class of 1968) and a Vietnam veteran, Owen Browne writes ad copy and appears in promotional videos for a yacht brokerage. His beautiful wife Anne, to whom he has been married for twenty years, takes the train three times a week from their Connecticut home to New York City, where she works as an editor for a yachting magazine. Their teenage daughter, Maggie, attends a convent school.

As one might expect, the facade of this picture-perfect family conceals serious internal stresses. In his early forties, Owen is restless, dissatisfied with the life he has made for himself. When presented with the opportunity to participate in a round-the-world solo sailing race, he takes it, even though his only solo experience has been a short coastal run from Florida to North Carolina. The voyage will be a trial not only for him but also for Anne, left behind to cope with the attentions of Ron Strickland, a documentary filmmaker who has a genius for prompting his subjects to grotesque self-revelations.

Like Robert Stone’s four previous novels, OUTERBRIDGE REACH is an ambitious book, one that addresses the State of the Union and the state of men and women in the late twentieth century as it follows the dark and entwined fates of its three central characters. In Stone’s universe we are bereft of the certainties that guided past generations. He works out the implications of that vision with serious intent, but the relentless narrowness of his view ultimately fails to enchant or persuade.

Bibliography

Bloom, James, D. “Cultural Capital and Contrarian Investing: Robert Stone, Thom Jones, and Others.” Contemporary Literature 36 (Fall, 1995): 490-507. Presents a critical appreciation of Stone’s Children of Light and Outerbridge Reach. Bloom examines the setting and story outline of Outerbridge Reach, as well as the narrative techniques of both novels. He also criticizes the apparent decay in standards relating to poetry, art, and culture.

Jones, Malcolm, Jr. “A Good Novelist’s Glum Cruise.” Newsweek 119 (February 24, 1992): 69. Jones believes Stone’s great themes, convincing characters, and scenes “as sharp as rusty fishhooks” are marred by attempts to imitate the moral dramas of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Outerbridge Reach, Jones writes, is best when Owen is fighting off insects, haunted by icebergs, beset by fervent radio preachers, and undone by sloppy craftsmanship that turns his boat into a coffin.

Leonard, John. “Leviathan.” The Nation 254 (April 13, 1992): 489-494. Leonard notes some of the literary influences that seem to “hover” over Stone’s novel, including Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad. He sees the novel as reflective of a spiritual quest and says, “Like Ahab, Stone hounds God—-and discovers his absence.”

Pritchard, William H. “Sailing Over the Edge.” The New York Times Book Review, February 23, 1992, pp. 1, 21, 22. Pritchard finds Stone’s usual preoccupation with the underside of American life toned down in Outerbridge Reach , though Strickland, with his ability to penetrate to the false heart of pretentiousness and to expose ideals as...

(The entire section is 734 words.)